Wisconsin-Green Bay next in a long line of teams shooting for Minnesota

David McCoy

When Janel McCarville was a freshman, conference opponents circled Minnesota’s women’s basketball team as a layup into the win column.

But after the team’s unprecedented season last year – which culminated in a trip to the Final Four – it seems as if every nonconference team on this schedule now has its showdown with Minnesota circled for a different reason.

“You have to approach every game differently when you’re the hunted instead of the hunter,” senior McCarville said. “People want to come every day and try to get us.”

And the numbers don’t lie.

In the two games so far this season in which the Gophers have played an opponent on their home floor, the team was a high draw on both opponents’ attendance records.

Minnesota was the highest draw at Creighton, drawing 629 more fans than the second-highest attendance – nearly double – and was only 215 fans short of Washington’s top mark.

That streak will continue tonight as Minnesota clashes with Wisconsin-Green Bay in front of a sellout crowd of 1,850 at the Phoenix Sports Center in Green Bay, Wis.

The game has been sold out since Nov. 17, reiterating that Minnesota (6-1) truly is the highlight of its nonconference opponents’ schedules.

The Phoenix are undefeated (6-0) and missed being ranked in the latest poll by The Associated Press by just 50 votes.

And Gophers coach Pam Borton said that if Minnesota wins, she thinks it might be the only game Wisconsin-Green Bay will lose all season.

Borton also said Wisconsin-Green Bay is playing its best basketball in years and will be 18th-ranked Minnesota’s biggest test so far.

“When I looked at the schedule before the beginning of the year, I knew Creighton and Green Bay would be the two most dangerous nonconference games on our schedule,” Borton said. “This is a statement game for them, and it’s our toughest game so far this year.”

Wisconsin-Green Bay is particularly tough at home, owning a 50-5 record there since 2000. Coupled with the noise of a small arena, Minnesota will have its hands full.

Junior guard April Calhoun said it might be tough to communicate, especially if Wisconsin-Green Bay goes on a run and the crowd gets excited.

“We still need to be able to communicate to each other,” Calhoun said. “Even if it’s just nonverbal communication.”

Making light of the situation, McCarville joked with reporters Tuesday, saying the team has “secret hand signals, but we can’t use them right now because you’re here.”

Things will get a little more serious for the Phoenix when it comes time for the 7 p.m. tipoff against the obvious highlight on its schedule.

Just ask its coach, Kevin Borseth.

“Every team we have on our schedule prepares us for the NCAA Tournament,” Borseth said. “(But) Minnesota is a good team. This game’s been sold out for a while, so obviously, our fans know that.”